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Monday, December 6, 2021

Tragic end to an epic journey: a stray wolf killed by a car in Southern California after a 1,000-mile trek from northern Oregon

At the heartbreaking end of an epic journey, California’s most fearless wolf was found dead earlier this month off Interstate 5 in Kern County, state conservation officials said Wednesday, killed by road traffic.

He wandered into the Golden State deeper than any wolf in a century.

The carcass of a young male OR-93 was spotted by a truck driver on the outskirts of the mountain town of Tejon Pass, east of Santa Barbara, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Born in the eastern cascades of northern Oregon, the wolf took a lonely journey to California last January, then across 18 counties, covering over 1,000 miles, averaging 16 miles a day. It was last reported in Ventura County in October, where no wolves have been seen since the 1920s.

On Wednesday, news of OR-93’s death outside of Lebeck spread much faster.

“It was hard to hear,” said Austin Smith Jr., a wildlife conservation manager for the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, who put an OR-93 with a dog collar in 2019. “We were hoping he would turn around, come back and find a mate.”

“We are accountable to them,” said 35-year-old Smith of the Wasco tribe. But in the century since wolves began to roam California, “the habitat has changed. There is growth, urban sprawl and deforestation. This is not the first time a collared wolf has been on the side of the road. ”

At the time of discovery, OR-93 was still wearing a purple collar, although its satellite transmitter stopped working last April. An autopsy performed by the Wildlife Health Laboratory at Rancho Cordova showed significant tissue trauma to his left hind leg, a dislocated knee, and trauma to the soft tissues of his abdomen. The injuries were attributed to a car accident.

OR-93’s infamous death put an end to the dream that other wolves could follow his scent southward, creating a new pack of disappearing wolves closer to humans.

All three California packs live in the remote northwest corner of the state: the Lassen pack in western Lassen and northern Plumas, which gave birth to 28 puppies; a flock of whalers in Siskiyu County with seven cubs and a non-fertile flock of Beckworths in southern Plumas County. The first recent flock in the state, the Shasta flock from eastern Siskiyu County, produced five puppies but has since disappeared.

According to Wendy McIntyre, professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands who studies the reintroduction of wolves on public lands, despite being extraordinary, OR-93’s journey was not unusual for a young wolf.

“It’s natural for them to wander. This is what they do, ”she said. “The flock has its own territory, so young males are kicked out. Therefore, they need to disperse and go on a journey, go somewhere and create their own flock. “

“This is such a tragic end for this animal,” she said. “It breaks my heart.”

Smith first noticed the OR-93 as a child, part of a larger flock that traversed the tribe’s 600,000-acre landscape of ponderosa pine and oak bush. As the older brother in the newest litter, he began to linger away from the den. To catch him, Smith and his team set up a humane trap with a rubber jaw, then put him to sleep and collared him.

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“There is a majestic savagery in their nature,” he said. According to him, the wolf was young and thin, weighed only 80 pounds.

But he was obedient, Smith recalled, and fled into the woods after awakening from a sedative.

OR-93 then headed south. Entering California last January, it drove hundreds of miles from Modoc County in the state’s desolate northeastern region, known for wormwood, pine and spruce forests, wheat fields and Daisy iron windmills. From there he traveled through the harsh Sierra Nevada.

But then, inexplicably, he turned west. While traveling through the San Joaquin Agricultural Valley, he may have been spotted on a farm near the town of Huron, according to the Fresno County Farmers Bureau.

By March, he had reached the pastoral County of San Benito, 40 miles east of the Monterey Peninsula and just an hour south of San Francisco Bay and Silicon Valley. It was reported in April in Monterey County, the land of Esalen’s hot tubs and the manicured Pebble Beach golf course.

A May surveillance video showed a collared gray wolf drinking water from a gutter in Kern County.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said last month that it had received three reports of a purple-collared wolf in northern Ventura County, and officials were able to confirm wolf tracks in the vicinity.

The wildlife chose not to interfere with his trek, choosing not to move him.

“Where would we take him? How can we assume that we know what he is looking for, where he will find it and where to put it? “- said the representative of the company Fish and Wildlife Jordan Traverso.

Wolves have roamed North America widely for thousands of years. Their numbers declined sharply after ranchers and settlers worried about eating calves and sheep in the 1800s. Many western states, including California, paid bounties to people who killed wolves in the 1800s. Several reward programs in Washington DC and Oregon continued into the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1925, when California’s last wild wolf was shot in Lassen County, the state had just 4.5 million inhabitants. Now that number is almost 40 million.

The end of OR-93 along I-5 underscores the need for more wildlife crossing facilities across the state to facilitate the safe passage of animals, said Pamela Flick, California program director at Defenders of Wildlife.

They are legally protected under the California Endangered Species Act. Murder or injury can result in heavy fines or imprisonment.

In recent years, animals have returned. It is estimated that over 7,000 gray wolves live in Alaska, 3,700 in the Great Lakes region, about 1,675 in the Northern Rocky Mountains, and 275 in the Pacific Northwest.

“In this annual time of reflection, I thank him for the hope he gave us and for a brief idea of ​​what it would be like for wolves to roam wild and free again,” said Amarok Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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